There wasn’t much buzz at a public meeting in London Tuesday about the crackdown on a pesticide blamed for the mass die-off of bees.
About 100 people attended the “pollinator consultations,” the first of three across the province. But the Grain Farmers of Ontario, a key player in the issue, boycotted the meetings.
Progresssive-Conservative MPPs Toby Barrett and Lisa Thompson showed up for the meetings, which included two government presentations, followed by roundtable discussions, but denounced the process as a farce.
“This (crackdown on neonicotinoids) will cost Ontario farmers $630 million a year . . . the research at this point is inconclusive,” said Barrett, the Tory agriculture critic and MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk.
Thompson, the Huron-Bruce MPP and the PC environment critic, said producers were “gobsmacked” by the proposed near-ban on neonicotinoids and full public hearings should have been held in rural centres across the province.
“Stakeholders are not being listened to. We need sound decisions based on science,” she said.
The provincial government, citing early evidence of a link between corn and soybean seeds treated with neonicotinoids and bee deaths in Ontario, has set a target of reducing the number of acres planted with the treated seed by 80% by 2017.
The Grain Farmers of Ontario, representing 28,000 corn, soybean and wheat producers, argues the near-ban is premature. President Henry Van Ankum said the government doesn’t seem interested in the concerns of agricultural producers.
“We have been trying to work with government for the last two years to come up with a reasonable response but instead they brought down a heavy-handed regulation,” he said.
Van Ankum said the mortality rate for bee colonies was high last winter but noted it was the coldest winter in 40 years.
He said farmers had adopted new practices to control neonicotinoid spread during this year’s growing season and new studies show bee mortality has dropped substantially this year.
Van Ankum said grain growers have scheduled a direct consultation with government officials Dec. 18.
But the proposed ban on neonicotinoids is also getting support.
Jodi Kobrinski of the Organic Council of Ontario was at the meeting and said the partial ban was a “bold step” but a full ban is needed.
“We need to move a lot farther a lot faster but we respect these things take time,” Kobrinski said.